Harnessing Your Leadership Voice with Barbara McAfee

Dr. Tim Buividas Leadership Leave a Comment


Last week, we featured renowned author, consultant and singer/songwriter Barbara McAfee on CLI’s BlogTalkRadio show. Our conversation focused on, the leadership aspects of “The Five Elements Framework” from her bestselling book, Full Voice: The Art and Practice of Vocal Presence. In her book, Barbara identifies “The Five Elements Framework” as the five distinct vocal colors and sounds within the human voice. Barbara describes how each element can be used to project different emotions and obtain different results.

Barbara’s work has had an impact on me. One of the key take-a-ways for me is the intentional use of my voice as a leader. Study after study demonstrates that one of the top characteristics of great leadership is effective communication. I realize now, more than before, that how I use my voice has an impact on those around me and that I can be more successful in my attempts to lead and communicate with others by using the right voice for the right situation. Below is a summary of the five voices from her book. I have added a leadership context for each.


1. Earth

Gifts: Gut instinct, authority, and grounding

Source in the Body: Pelvis, buttocks, legs, and feet

Character: Neanderthal, Santa Clause, Darth Vader

Leadership Context: This is an excellent voice to use to make a very firm decision, strong point, or to convey a determined direction. This voice can used well during times of uncertainty.


2. Fire

Gifts: Passion, personal power, and vitality

Source in the Body: Belly, solar plexus

Character: Luciano Pavarotti, Martial Artist, Martin Luther King

Leadership Context: This is the “motivational speaker” voice that all leaders need to bring in at the appropriate time. This is a great voice for communicating a new vision or when team members need persuasion to carry on.


3. Water

Gifts: Caring, compassion, and affirmation

Source in the Body: Throat

Character: Julia Child, British Lady, Wolf

Leadership Context:  This voice is a great voice to use when a leader is in the role of mentor and or coach. This voice is used to help sooth a situation or demonstrate caring towards individuals.


4. Metal

Gifts: Clarity and focus

Source in the Body: Forehead, eye brows

Character: Siamese Cat, Wicked Witch, Bratty Child

Leadership Context: This is the “you need to hear me now” leadership voice. This voice can be used as a great technique for when people are not getting your message. This voice puts it in a place when it can definitely be heard differently.

5. Air

Gifts: Inspiration, possibility, and spiritual connection

Source in the Body: Crown

Character: Airhead, Frenchwoman, Baby Talker

Leadership Context: This is the leadership voice of possibility. This is the voice to intentionally use when you want to people to think differently, to come up with new ideas, to brainstorm and or step back and look at the big picture.


My challenge for our readers is to take the next few weeks and listen to how you are using your voice. Watch the reactions others have to your voice. Practice intentionally using the five voices and see if you have a greater impact communicating as a leader.

For more information on Barbara McAfee and The Five Elements Framework please visit: http://www.barbaramcafee.com/

Click here to listen to our conversation with Barbara McAfee on CLI’s BlogTalkRadio show

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Dr. Tim BuividasHarnessing Your Leadership Voice with Barbara McAfee

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